Maddie. I'd like you to meet Ryan.
Maddie. It's time for you to grow up. And Ryan's going to help you (since your Momma has gotten all wussified).
I met Ryan briefly back at the Milwaukee Rail Trail endurance ride, when I first met Aarene of Haiku Farm, live-and-in-person.
It was also the first day that Maddie threw her big fits about both being mounted and dismounted. The former, I was willing to chalk up to Aarene being new, and Maddie never being mounted from the ground before (as this old lady is the only one who had ever mounted her at all). But when she skittered out from under me when I was dismounting, I knew something was up.
Two weeks later, we had my unscheduled dismount, that just served to scare Maddie more--not to mention me. Although I've done a little ground work with her since then, when it came time to throw a leg over, I just couldn't quell the unease in my tummy.
So Maddie has been standing around for two months, waiting for me to figure out what to do. I wasn't sure I could ever trust her again, but I wouldn't sell her without resolving the issue.
Commenting on one of my posts where I mentioned this impasse, Aarene suggested that her young friend Ryan had worked with her temperamental mare Fiddle, and had a quiet but firm way about him. He also lives not far away, here on the dry side of the state. It took us a while to connect (Ryan being a 21st century kind of guy, of the FaceBook generation, and me, being firmly stuck in the 20th century age of land-lines). But he made it out this morning to "consult" with me and Maddie.
In anticipation, I have been working with Maddie some more for the last several days, essentially starting from square one: sacking her out ("I've never seen that saddle before!"), ground work ("What? I'm supposed to follow you willingly?"), round pen work ("Yeah. Look at me race around in circles!"), and mounting block practice ("You can't make me stand there if I don't want to!"). Last night's session was good enough that I almost climbed on...
Ryan started with quite a bit of ground work, asking Maddie to relax and give him her eye. Considering how out of shape she is (remember, she's been standing around for two months), it took a little bit. But Ryan was very patient, and eventually she was willing to give him a chance to partner with her.
He started to weight the stirrups and then went to step up, and Maddie's eyes got pretty big! I reminded him that she had never been mounted from the ground, so, not to push her too hard this first day, he headed to the mounting block, and stepped up, but didn't swing over. Maddie was tense, and he felt like she could blow, but he just went about up-ing and down-ing for a few more minutes until she relaxed. Then he climbed on board.
And off again. And on, and off.
She was tense, and Ryan was pretty sure she would hump up on him, but he asked her to move out, and, although still fairly stiff (note the clamped tail below), she complied.
They walked and jogged for maybe ten minutes, then we called it good.
The dismount was uneventful, showing how far she'd come in just about an hour's time.
Ryan and I talked about him maybe taking her on for 30 days, not only to get past this issue, but also to fill in a few holes in her training that I haven't gotten to (her lope especially needs practice). He doesn't have an opening for two weeks, so it was agreed that I would work with her these next couple of weeks and see how far we can get. Just the last week of regular work seems to have been a step in the right direction. And now that I see that she won't necessarily explode when mounted, I feel better about maybe trying it myself. If I'm okay with her for the time being, I'll haul Beth down to his place instead, to get her a little farther along, so that maybe I can get her sold before winter.
All in all, it was a momentous day:
first ride since May;
first rider other than me;
and no fireworks!
We'll see how Maddie and I do on our own.